Thursday, 31 July 2014

What Did You Want To Be When You Grew Up? #IWantToBe

This week, Blossom Magazine has launched a brilliant competition for their readers.  The #IWantToBe campaign is asking young readers to submit a video entry of what they want to be when they grow up.

In each edition of the magazine, Blossom features a different career to show girls they can aspire to be whoever they want to be - whether it's an airline pilot, an author or a doctor.  It's great to see a magazine aimed at young girls, which promotes the fact that they can aspire to do any job...even that of the Prime Minister!

girls magazine

As a little girl I distinctly remember wanting to be a vet.  I loved animals and would leaf through the pages of my dad's wildlife encyclopedias learning about all the different creatures of the world.  At school I loved biology, and refused to do animal dissections on moral grounds.  It was during my early teens that I first decided to go vegetarian on the basis of loving animals and would listen to The Smiths "Meat is Murder" religiously! However, it turns out that the veterinary business was never my vocation. Ironically for an animal mad kid, nowadays I am not an animal person at all. I don't have any pets.  Funny how you change over the years!

When she was younger, Kizzy wanted to be a scientist and had a huge interest in all things related to science, conducting experiments in the kitchen using household items. Kizzy is now 11 and has set her sights on becoming a make-up artist or stylist.  She loves fashion and cosmetics and shows a real flair for design, knowing how to put together specific looks and styles. It will be interesting to see where life takes her and whether she will achieve her dream.    

Entrants have until 6th September to submit a short video ( less than one minute long) to the email address of and one winner will be selected to win a VIP London family trip which includes one family ticket to ZSL London with a Meet the Meerkats experience (minimum age 5); one Rainforest CafĂ© voucher worth £100; overnight accommodation in one family room at 3-star hotel, in Central London and a visit to Blossom HQ plus a Blossom Goody Bag.  What a fabulous itinerary for the lucky little girl and her family to enjoy! Visiting Blossom HQ will be an amazing experience, and who knows, the winner might go on to be a top magazine editor of tomorrow.

Blossom, magazine, win

So why not get together with your daughter to record and submit a video to the competition. As well as giving them a chance to win a wonderful trip to London, it will also be something quite amazing to look back on in the future, reminding you of what your little girl wanted to be when she grew up!

Full t's & c's are in the current edition of Blossom magazine available now.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

CBeebies Land at Alton Towers - our review

If you are looking for a fantastic day out for all the family, Alton Towers is definitely worth considering.  Ever since the opening of CBeebies Land, which caters to pre-schoolers, Alton Towers has become the best venue for keeping everyone in our family happy.  So now while the older kids head off to the rollercoasters, there is a whole day's worth of fun in CBeebies Land for Freddy to enjoy.

From the colourful entrance to the themed rides and attractions to the amazing Big Fun Showtime area, the attention to detail is fantastic!  With character meet and greets, live shows, playground equipment, an assortment of kid friendly rides and hands-on interactive exhibits, Alton Towers have got it so right!

As Merlin annual pass holders, we go a few times a year to our favourite theme park, which is an hour's drive from home.  Having the annual pass means we can beat the queues and get into the park an hour early with access to CBeebies Land before everyone else arrives.  This was great because we were able to experience the In the Night Garden Magical Boat Ride, the Numtums Number Go Round, Charlie and Lola's Moonsquirters and Greendrops, Mr Bloom's Allotments and Justin's Pie-o-matic Factory while they weren't at all busy.  We then enjoyed a nice time at the Tree Fu Tom Training Camp and Nina's Science Lab before relaxing on the sun chairs to watch the Zingzilla's show and play in the Mike the Knight knights in training camp at the Big Fun Showtime area.  Freddy met Tree Fu Tom and Iggle Piggle, which was quite exciting!!

We loved a gentle wander in Mr Tumble's Sensory Garden and Freddy loved putting his hands into the imprints in the CBeebies stars walk of fame.  Everything is brilliantly branded and themed for maximum child appeal with instantly recognisable imagery and music.  We queued for one ride, which was the Get Set Go Tree Top Adventure, which was a twenty five minute wait, but there are things to see and do in the queue keeping kids entertained.  At peak time, the queues for some of the rides exceeded an hour.  I wouldn't fancy waiting that long with little ones, which is why I was glad to do them all early.

Cbeebies, theme park

As regulars of Alton Towers we recognised all the rides as being revamped versions of the old rides they had there when it was Old MacDonald's Farm.  It is a stroke of genius transforming an old tired, underused area of the park into something so popular.  For example they have converted the old tractor ride into Postman Pat's Parcel Post and the Eye Spy Riverboat Ride is now home to Upsy Daisy, Iggle Piggle et al!  A lick of paint, a spruce up and the introduction of some CBeebies characters has really given this area an incredible face lift.  Hot on the heels of Peppa Pig World and Thomas Land, CBeebies Land is bang on trend when it comes to keeping little ones happy at theme parks.

I loved how there are now lots of hands on exhibits like Nina's Science lab where kids can explore their senses and the Charlie and Lola fun house, which is just stunning and immerses kids in the vision of Lauren Child.  New facilities and some amazing design features have lifted the area, making it quite literally magical. The live shows and the interactive Mr Bloom attraction make kids feel a part of their favourite CBeebies programmes. It's like stepping into the TV!

I loved our day at Alton Towers.  As well as CBeebies Land, Freddy enjoyed the carousel, the indoor soft play area, the River Rapids and the driving school, which are other kid friendly attractions that he enjoys. Add to that the beautiful landscaped gardens and the SeaLife Centre, and he enjoyed a full and varied day out.

Freddy's verdict - "Awesome!!"

Quorn & Vegetable Satay Recipe - served with Veetee Egg Fried Rice

Veetee sent me some of their microwaveable steamed rice in a hamper and challenged me to come up with a recipe.  I made a vegetarian Quorn and Vegetable Satay, which is the perfect partner to the Veetee Egg Fried Rice.  The recipe is so quick and easy and you can be enjoying a yummy Chinese meal from scratch in about 20 minutes.  The Veetee rice is really time saving and convenient, cooking in its tray in a microwave in just 2 minutes, and is a great accompaniment to a home cooked Chinese style meal. The eggs used in the Egg Fried Rice are free-range, which is good to know, and the quality rice gives a great, light and fluffy result.

rice, convenience food

The ingredients I used were enough for a family of four, served with two trays of the Veetee Egg Fried Rice as an accompaniment.

Here is my recipe video:


Look out for the new wholegrain rice from Veetee too.  Another great cupboard staple for quick meals.

Veetee, rice

Monday, 28 July 2014

A Tiger's Tail - a film review

In the perfect formula for a family movie, you might find cute animals, characterful kids and funny situational comedy. A Tiger's Tail features all of these things!  Youngsters Billy and Koby, are dealing with the usual troubles that befall teens such as homework, girls and the local bullies.  But when a tiger cub called Luna comes into their lives, the trouble really begins!

kids movie, tiger

The tale begins at the local zoo where the local bullies humiliate Billy and steal his rucksack while he was trying to impress his love interest Doreen by the zoo's hot dog stand.  When Billy's dad finds the bag, due to the carelessness of a rather inept zoo keeper, there is an uninvited guest stowed away inside, which he inadvertently brings home.  This is the start of an adventure that sees Billy trying to keep the baby tiger hidden from his clueless parents and come up with a plan to return the cub to its pining mother.

The film uses a lot of classic, kids' film plot devices to progress the story and the moral of being rewarded for doing the right thing is cliched if not heartwarming. It has the feel of a Sunday afternoon Nick Jr movie with cute critters and kids getting into scrapes until the final mandatory happy ending.  The interaction between the family's pet Labrador and the tiger cub brings scenes that children will love and the comedic situations that come from trying to conceal a playful wild animal in the house will get the children chuckling.

Our favourite characters were Billy's goofball friend Koby, who is always doing something daft, and Billy's dad (played by the guy who played mind reading policeman Matt Partman in Heroes).  The parenting skills of Billy's parents leave a lot to be desired as they constantly dismiss and misunderstand their son's dilemmas- but it does raise a few laughs.

There is a good element of storytelling, some lovely animals and some gentle humour along with a nice soundtrack, which makes this a sweet film to keep the little ones entertained this summer. It has a nice moral message about honesty and doing the right thing and we get to see the underdogs triumph.

The Tiger's Tail is available now - find it on Amazon for £8.50.
The film is 81 Minutes long and a U certificate.

Avengers Bedroom In A Box - Room Transformations from Dulux #asifbymagic

A few weeks ago, we transformed Freddy's bedroom using the Dulux Bedroom in a Box with a Marvel Avengers theme.  To say that the end result was awesome is an understatement.  Everyone who has seen it has been super impressed and maybe just a tad envious!  The easy to hang wallpaper mural has created a fantastic feature wall with Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Hawkeye in starring roles.

Dulux, BIAB

The Dulux Bedroom in a Box range doesn't just cater for fans of Marvel Avengers, they have Jungle Adventure, Sea Adventure, Peppa Pig and Disney Fairy Princess themes.So whatever your little one is into, there will be a Bedroom in a Box theme to please them.   

The concept of the Bedroom in a Box is simple:


Take a look at the Dulux Bedroom in a Box website to see real reviews, customer quotes, videos and photographs of bedroom makeovers.  I spotted a photo of Freddy on the website, of him after he saw his new bedroom for the first time.  He was very excited knowing that his room was decked out with his favourite superheroes!

Dulux, Avengers

If you are looking for inspiration for redecorating your children's bedrooms, it's well worth taking a look at the range.  They transform kids' rooms as if by magic! You could even have the opportunity to win an annual Merlin Pass for the family by buying a Dulux Bedroom in a Box.  Another great reason to buy one!

Dulux, decorating

Find out more and order a BIAB at the Dulux Bedroom in a Box website.

"We were provided with a Bedroom in a Box for the purposes of this review by Dulux and Tots100. You can find out more about the Bedroom in a Box range on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest." 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Love your tummy with All-Bran #realmumsallbran

Life can be hectic, fast paced and chaotic. As a parent, time is valuable and sometimes in the melee we don't take as good care of ourselves as we should.  Little things like enjoying a healthy breakfast can be forgotten in the hectic morning rush.  Getting enough fibre in your diet or eating your five a day can be overlooked in favour of rushed ready meals or late night take aways. Consequently, our health and our digestive wellbeing can suffer. We can feel gassy or bloated.  In fact 52% of 1000 women surveyed confessed to experiencing digestive complaints at least once a week. Not a recipe for feeling good.

As serotonin is mostly made in the gut, we are restricting the production of our happy hormone when we don't look after our tummies. No wonder so many of us feel below par so often. It's no surprise that we sometimes have unhappy tums.

tummy upset
A sad tummy :(

Kellogg's All-Bran and Britmums have challenged me to try the #RealMumsAllBran 5 day challenge in an effort to get a good feeling in my tummy.  The challenge also encourages us to love our tummies, flaws and all, and embrace the way we look.

All-Bran, Kelloggs, cereals

Once upon a time I had a tummy that looked like this.

teenager, sexy

Nowadays it looks a lot less like this and more like a big blob of over-handled dough.  It's no longer taut or tanned as it was in my teens.  It's pale and's not seen the sun for years!  My days of bikini clad sunbathing on the beach have been replaced with the wearing of sensible one piece cossies and sitting in the shade. The me that was, is no more. Lots has changed over the years

My tummy and I have a longstanding love-hate relationship.  On one hand I have nothing but admiration for my tummy.  It has housed my five growing babies - my first pregnancy was in 1988, my last in 2009.  Forty five months of my life have been dedicated to producing my offspring.  That's almost four years where my tummy has been stretched to capacity, kicked, jabbed and prodded from within.  It's bound to take its toll.

My last pregnancy 'blew' my stomach muscles, which have failed to close up properly. Consequently, even if I'm a little overweight, my stomach just bulges out. It's not a good look, and can evoke questions pertaining to when I'm due.  Mortifying and no good for my confidence.

But it happened because I carried my 9lb 10oz baby to term.  It's a war wound from my last ever pregnancy. A reminder of what it was like to carry my last born son.  So how can I view it negatively?
I just have to suck in my core and keep the pounds off.  I can do that! It was definitely worth it because I have an adorable little boy because of it.

pregnancy, baby, sister
A little Kizzy with my 6 month baby belly!

Every stretch mark, every scar, every mole and every ounce of flesh that overhangs the waistband of my skinny jeans tells a story.  It's the story of motherhood...and I wouldn't have things any other way.  Carrying, birthing and raising my five beautiful children is the greatest and most rewarding achievement of my 45 years!

If ever my vanity threatens to confuse my mindset into dreaming about tummy tucks or liposuction in an attempt to recapture the taut tummy of my teens, I just have to think about my family and smile.
Maybe I'll never be a middle aged super model...but I'm a mum...a real mum...and that's good enough for me.

As for the health of my insides, I have taken the 5 day challenge, enjoying a bowl of new All-Bran every morning for my breakfast.  As a vegetarian, fibre features quite regularly in my diet from pulses, fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and nuts....but I am notorious for failing to eat a good breakfast. This challenge promised to put me on the road to good eating habits.

I remember back in the day when the only type of All-Bran available was the brown sticky kind! Now we get a choice including indulgent Golden Crunch, Red Berry Crunch and Chocolate Wheats. All-Bran is definitely a product that has come a long, long way over the years, appealing to a wider audience with more demanding and varied tastes, but still gives consumers a high fibre cereal to improve their digestive wellbeing.

The Red Berry Crunch is my favourite of the three varieties.  I enjoy it best, sprinkled over a bowl of soya yogurt or with almond milk.  The clusters are quite big, indulgent and very filling, whilst the dried strawberries add a fruity twist to the cereal.  As the cereals are fortified, I know I am getting Iron and other essential nutrients in addition to the fibre.

After five days, I definitely feel more energised in the morning and am not hungry until mid afternoon.  My body has definitely enjoyed being well fed, and taking five minutes at the start of the day for a yummy breakfast has been quite an uplifting experience.  A bit of me-time, no matter how minor is always therapeutic!

The cereals are sweetened, so depending on your personal taste, you may find that you prefer the traditional 'stick' All-Bran or the flakes.  But having the whole range to pick from gives you choice and variety.  So, whatever type of cereals you enjoy, there is no excuse for not loving your tummy with All-Bran!


You can follow other real mums' stories by looking for the hashtag #RealMumsAllBran on Twitter.

This post is an entry for the Real Mums of All-Bran Linky Challenge, sponsored by Kelloggs.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Check Out Aldi School Shop for Low Priced School Uniform

Buying school uniform for the kids can be very expensive. However, there are ways that you can cut the costs considerably.  Even if your child's school has items of compulsory uniform such as sweatshirts bearing the school logo, you can still save pounds by shopping for the other bits and bobs at Aldi this year.

low price school uniform

The prices are low, but the quality is still great with every item independently tested for durability, washability, fabric strength, comfort and quality of the stitching.  Colours are tested against fading or running and the designs are tested for practicality. So you can be assured that each item is up for the back to school challenge.

All sizes from 4-11 years are one price, so you won't end up paying more for your older or bigger kids. You can invest in clothes for them to grow into at the same low prices and future proof your school uniform with bargain buys. You could even buy a couple of spares just in case!

Here is a sample of what is on offer in store from tomorrow, July 24th:
  • Polo shirts with button front and ribbed collar are available in blue or white and priced at just £1.25.
  • Round neck sweaters in navy or red are just £1.25 each.
  • Girl's Pleated Skirts in navy, black or grey with permanent pleats are just £1.50.
  • Trousers for girls and boys in navy, black and grey with Teflon fabric protection are just £1.50.
  • Short sleeved shirts are just £1.99.
  • Scuff resistant shoes for kids' sizes 10-3 with velcro fastening are available for £6.99.

All the uniform come with name labels inside to make labeling the children's school clothing easy and ensuring their property doesn't get lost.  The clothing is all easy to launder with clear care labels to keep it looking at its best.

With prices this low, getting the kids back to school and looking smart won't be such a financially daunting prospect!!

Also in store, you'll find stationery and learning books to help the kids get ready for September.

Freddy received some new black school trousers and polo shirts from the range and I am very impressed with the quality you get for the low price tag.  The finish is good, the stitching is secure and the material, of the trousers in particular, is really nice. It'll be well worth checking out the range of Specialbuys when they appear in Aldi's School Shop tomorrow.

Keep the Kids Entertained with 50 Days of Summer

If you are looking for some inspiration this summer, for ideas to keep boredom away during the long holidays, then Roberts Bakery has some ideas for you!  In their FREE downloadable pack, there are suggestions for affordable activities to do, places to visit (including many with free admission), fun things to make and picnic friendly recipes to create.

The 50 Days of Fun downloadable pack is filled with things that the kids will love to do. Click on the image below to go to the website:

free downloadable

There is an idea for every day from July 17th, but you can pick and choose ideas for things to do from the fifty days.  Day one suggests making a scrapbook and recording all the adventures you get up to over the summer.  This will be a wonderful souvenir, and I find that keeping a summer scrapbook keeps the kids practicing their reading and writing in a fun way!

I love some of the suggestions, such as the mess free, outdoor water painting which would be a great activity to keep little ones occupied on a sunny day...and if it descended into a water fight, then that would be even more fun!

There are some great picnic sandwich ideas, some of which I tested when I enjoyed the Roberts Bakery Bloggers' Picnic earlier this year.  The Cheezy Beans refried bean sandwich idea is new one I intend to try out.  It sounds yummy!  Or how about trying the Nutty 'Nanas sandwich that I made at the bloggers' picnic? We used the Roberts Bakery 50% White & 50% Wholemeal bread, which was really good.

peanut butter and banana sandwich

You can download the two part pack at
It is a great resource whether you want to follow everyday or just dip into!
Roberts Bakery will be sharing the day’s top pick on and on twitter @roberts_bakery.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Playmobil for Little Pirates and Animal Lovers

Freddy's latest goodies from Playmobil have made him an incredibly happy little Playologist!  He received an incredible Pirate Ship and a fabulous Wildlife set.  Both sets required some construction helped by daddy, but the toys were soon ready to be played with.


The Playmobil Pirate Ship is an absolutely fabulous toy.  It is big (68cm x 22.5cm x 56cm) and is buoyant (so it can be floated on water and upgraded with an underwater motor).  It comes with four pirate characters, two fully fireable bolt guns, assorted weaponry and accessories, a parrot, treasure map and treasure chest.  The upper deck is removable, giving an area for the pirates to sit and discuss their pillaging plans!

Playmobil, pirates

The detail of the pirate ship is simply exquisite.  From the crow's nest to the wind-up anchor to the rigging that the pirates can hang from, everything is geared to inspire a child's imagination.  There is a storage place under the deck for keeping all the weaponry and the pirate's booty.  There are lots of places for the pirates to hold on to, swing from and stand on.  They can even do handstands! The play value for creating imaginative scenarios is huge.  

The sails billow and look so realistic as the ship is pushed along.  They are made of a stiff material which holds its shape. Freddy was very impressed that the cannons fired out real ammo and enjoyed firing them from the ship.  There is a gold coin at the back of the boat which is compatible with the puzzle in the Adventure Island set, which helps to open the secret cave.  The detail of the pirates is great.  The chest tattoo on the captain is so cool and the others hairy chest and stubble if very rough and ready!


The pirate ship is an excellent stand alone toy that can be added to over the years with other items from the Pirates range.  The pirate characters from Freddy's Playmobil advent character have joined the crew and have added to the pirating fun.

It is available from good toy retailers or from for £44.74.

If your little one prefers animals, then the Wildlife Range is a great choice.  Freddy received the Jungle Animals with Researcher and Off Road Vehicle set to try out.

The set includes one male researcher, a 4x4 vehicle, a jungle scene, which includes an Orang-Utan with two babies and a tiger and her cub, plus a host of accessories.  The jungle scene includes a lift up rock hiding some deadly scorpions and a huge snake who basks in the sun.  The off road vehicle has a removable roof and boot and has storage space for all the researchers equipment.  He has a table, a laptop, a microscope, a map, plus a lantern, stove, food and tools.

Playmobil, wildlife

Again, it's the detail which puts Playmobil toys in a league of their own.  The tree's foliage is the perfect place for the Orang-Utan family to play as they swing from branch to branch.  The creeping vines and flowers add to the scenery's detailing.  The tigers perch on the rocky outcrop as the researcher views them in their natural habitat.  The car is very detailed with spotlights, a tow bar, a grill on the front and a spare wheel. It is decorated with a camouflage foliage pattern and has the zebra emblem on the doors.

I love the tiny little microscope and laptop that the  researcher uses to identify his discoveries.  The small bits fit into a trunk, which fits in the boot of the vehicle.  There are lots more sets in the Wildlife range so you can add other animals, scenery, vehicles and researchers to games.  Budding zoologists will love unleashing their inner David Attenborough and play some fabulously imaginative games as they track down animals and study them.

The Wildlife jungle animal, vehicle and researcher set costs £29.99.  You get a lot of bits for your money.  It can be purchase from


This summer, if you want to give your little Playmobil fans an amazing family break in London, check out the Playmobil Suite at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel. For 40 days (until August 20th 2014), to celebrate its 40th birthday, Playmobil is taking over and families can immerse themselves with books, games, toys, accessories and giant Playmobil figures when they book a stay in the spacious suite.  Kids can run riot and indulge in lots of Playmobil fun while parents relax in the executive room.

Waldorf Hilton Hotel

It's a once in a lifetime opportunity that children will remember for years to come! What child wouldn't want to have fun with these amazing toys!

hotel, Playmobil

To book the ‘PLAYMOBIL Suite’ at The Waldorf Hilton, London, visit

To find out where the large PLAYMOBIL friends will pop up and to create your own PLAYMOBILMe avatar keep your eyes peeled on

Follow #PLAYMOBIL40th

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Shop 'til You Drop at Cheshire Oaks - A McArthur Glen Designer Outlet

This summer is the perfect time to indulge in a spot of retail therapy at one of the McArthur Glen Designer Outlets.  With six in the UK: Ashford, Bridgend, Cheshire Oaks near Chester,  East Midlands near Nottingham, Swindon and York, and a further fourteen outlets across Europe, they offer fantastic discounts on leading premium, designer, high street and lifestyle brands.

Throughout the summer, the UK outlets have extra activities on site to keep all the family happy.  We were invited to visit our nearest McArthur Glen Designer Outlet, Cheshire Oaks to discover what it had to offer over the school holidays.  With water walker balls, trampolines, fairground rides, giant sandpits and inflatables, the Activity Zones will make sure everyone is having fun.  Parents can relax in the deckchairs, enjoying a drink from the Beach Bar, while little ones play in the sandpit.  Older children will love the rides (extra charges through the purchase of tokens is required).   The outlet also has two fabulous play areas where kids can run off steam.  One of the areas is undercover so kids can play whatever the weather.  There are also ten coin operated children's rides around the site, to give little ones a treat when they have been good!

Today, Cheshire Oaks were hosting an event in conjunction with Heart FM.  A team from Heart were on hand in an al fresco area offering shoppers the chance to take part in a competition to win vouchers.  Shoppers were also invited to chat to the team about their shopping experience with the possibility of  their Vox Pop being featured in an ad on the radio!  Myself and my 18 year old daughter Ella recorded one and had a chat with the lady from Heart.

shopping, radio

On arrival at Cheshire Oaks we were met by the lovely Marketing Manager who showed us around the site.   We learned that the whole outlet is in the process of a massive refurbishment with new flooring, fresh white paintwork and funky seating being introduced.  Everything looked fresh, bright and clean.  It was brilliant seeing all the shops so busy and bustling.  There were even queues outside some shops, in particular the Ralph Lauren stores.  Everybody loves a bargain and with discounts typically up to 70% off, there are lots of great money saving offers to be found.

Parking is free and there are over 3000 spaces available.  There are 135 stores and 12 restaurants as well as numerous food kiosks dotted around the site.  Cheshire Oaks is accessible from junction 10 of the M53 and is close to the city of Chester, Chester Zoo and the Blue Planet Aquarium, making it a great place for incorporating into a weekend away or a short break.

For the summer at Cheshire Oaks, there is a great free competition where shoppers can Unlock Their Style.  There is a selection of locked perspex boxes with some great prizes inside.  You have to choose a key and if your key fits one of the padlocks, you instantly win what is inside the box it opens.  I had my eye on a £100 Yo Sushi voucher, but sadly our keys did not unlock any of the boxes.  It is a really fun, instant win competition, and lucky shoppers are winning prizes everyday.

shopping, competitions
Trying to unlock the padlock to win a prize!

The range of shops available is brilliant.  High end designer names such as Burberry, Radley, Ralph Lauren and Armani, sit alongside top high street brands such as M & S, Next and Nike.  So whether you are looking for an expensive designer item with a great discount, or whether you want to pick up high street brands at outlet prices, you will find whatever you are looking for in a one stop shopping experience.  And it's not just about fashion, there are lots of stores selling cookware such as Pro-Cook and Le Crueset.  There are cosmetic shops like L'Occitane, W H Smiths and Paperchase for stationery and  Cadbury, Thornton's and Lindt for buying chocolatey treats!

My girls loved the Claire's Accessories store which offered 30% off full prices as well as a load of sale items at 10 for £5!  They bought loads of lovely bits and bobs including jewellery and hair accessories.  The Next outlet was also a huge hit as the kids amassed a haul of clothes, shoes and make-up at low prices.  Kizzy picked out a dress that she took a fancy to when she saw it at a Next event we attended earlier this year.  Now at just £6, it is a great bargain for the summer.  Freddy picked out some half price character tees and some jeans.  Ella found two pairs of shoes and a top, all heavily discounted.

Cheshire Oaks, shopping, sale

We also enjoyed visiting the Vans store where Kizzy bought a pair of hidden heel hi-tops for just £10!!  A huge bargain!  Nike, Adidas and Sports Direct also proved excellent sources for picking up bargains.  Kizzy got some essential sports equipment she needs for her new school and Freddy bagged a football for just £4.  The M&S outlet had some incredible clearance bargains including a three pack of pyjamas for Freddy, a school skirt and a summer playsuit for Kizzy all at just £3 each with an extra 20% off at the till!  He also got a tuxedo jacket, shirt and bow tie set also for £2.40 which is a massive 90% discount on its original price.  He will look like a mini James Bond and I'm sure there will be a special occasion for him to wear it.  The Joules store and Gap have some great buys for children and the Superdry store is huge and is heaven for teenagers!

shopping, sales

For lunch we were treated to a meal in Ed's Easy Diner, which is a funky restaurant steeped in Americana with juke boxes playing Elvis and a real 50's vibe throughout.  We enjoyed veggie burgers and some of the most incredible milkshakes we had ever tasted which came in metal jugs.  The girls had Oreo and peanut butter milkshakes while I had a skinny coffee milkshake.  Delicious.

diner, Americanarestaurant, Americana

It is nice to see so many restaurants with so many options for vegetarians like us.  With Yo Sushi, Cafe Rouge, Harry Ramsden's, Starbucks and McDonald's among the choices, there is something for everyone whatever your taste or your budget. You really can enjoy a full day out at Cheshire Oaks; shopping in the amazing shops; letting the kids enjoy the play areas and having a family meal together.  

There are plenty of facilities for families with young children including baby changing stations, restaurants with baby food heating and high chairs and kiddy cabs for hire.  There are ramps around the whole site making easy access for pushchairs when walking between the stores.

Eds Diner, restaurant, Cheshire Oaks

We had an excellent day enjoying all the facilities at Cheshire Oaks.  Because of the play areas and Activity Zone, Freddy had a fun day too. Ian looked after him for a while in the undercover play area while the girls and I did some serious shopping!  It worked really well and everyone was happy.  It's a great day out. When we arrived home we checked all the bargains we had bought.  We had masses of stuff for all three children for their summer holidays and for Kizzy's Back to School essentials. A very productive trip indeed.

sale, bargains, haul

Find out more about McArthur Glen Designer Outlets.

Check out a Heart FM or Capital Radio event near you at Bridgend on 2/8/14 or Ashford, York and East Midlands on 9/8/14. 

“I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity”.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The LEGO Movie comes to TalkTalk - Everything is Awesome!

TalkTalk, Britain’s fastest growing TV service, brings the smash box office hit, The LEGO Movie, to its TV customers on Monday 21st July 2014!

LEGO, TalkTalk

The exciting full-length animated LEGO adventure will be available to TalkTalk’s TV customers to rent for 48 hours for the price of £4.00. What an excellent treat for the kids at the start of the summer holidays! The movie, which has made over £240 million at the box office, is available on TalkTalk on the same day as the DVD is released, ensuring LEGO fans don’t have to wait to watch it.  You can watch it from the comfort of your home with just a few clicks of your remote control and enjoy a hassle-free and fun family film with the kids.

You will all soon be singing "Everything is Awesome!" and cheering on Emmet as he tries to save the world from Lord Bussiness's evil plan.  It's a great movie with a heartwarming message, that adults and children will love in equal measure.

The LEGO Movie is just one of the exciting things, which will help keep the kids entertained this summer with TalkTalk. TalkTalk will be launching free channel ‘Tasters’, allowing customers to view popular channels usually found only in paid for Boosts. The first of these tasters will launch on the weekend of 1st and 2nd August where the Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior will be free to watch all weekend, helping families kick off the school summer holidays with some Disney fun.

Along with the LEGO Movie, YouView from TalkTalk homes can also watch Non-Stop, The Book Thief and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and later this month TalkTalk viewers will also be able to catch Noah and A Long Way Down.  Plenty of reasons to check out the TV service from TalkTalk.

Proud TalkTalk Family Blogger

Friday, 18 July 2014

Goodbye Juniors - Hello Summer!

Today marked the end of the school year.  Kizzy said good-bye to primary school as her time as a Year 6 pupil came to an end.  In the teacher's awards presentation, she won the accolade of being recognised as MD Junior School's Next Top Model...the girl with a model attitude and the longest legs that her teacher had ever seen on an 11 year old.  But Kizzy isn't just a beauty, she's got brains too, getting level 5's for her maths SATs and a level 6 in English.  She also has a lovely group of friends (and is also mature enough to know who not to be friends with! She's had a bit of trouble recently with a so-called friend, but has dealt with it without losing her integrity). I'm so very proud of her and the way she handles herself.

school kids

Kizzy's teacher gave all the children a truly wonderful gift with a beautiful sentiment.  They each received a pretty little jar filled with things...a jar of ingredients for a fruitful future.  A contents card listed what was contained in the jar, from a packet of seeds to a sprinkle of stars with the reason behind each object.  It was so lovely.  It made me cry.

leaving present

Kizzy also had an official school autograph book, which she got filled with messages from her school friends.  It was heartwarming to see so many people saying how lovely, funny and kind my daughter is, and what a great friend she is

I'm sure will have a fantastic time when she goes up to secondary school.  She is so ready for it.  But before September, I intend to enjoy some quality time with Kizzy - along with Ella and Freddy who have both reached educational milestones themselves.  I love spending time with my children and the following six weeks will be well spent as we prepare for the next stages of our lives!  

Private versus state schools: are they really better?

My niece attends a private boarding school where she is flourishing academically, personally, socially and musically. The opportunities and facilities are superb and I have no doubt she will excel and go on to be massively successful.  If money was no object, I'm sure I would have considered private education at a school like St.Faiths for my children, where little ones wear a stripy blazer and school tie and take part in an innovative and far reaching curriculum. Saying that though, my children have all done or are doing brilliantly well in their own rights and I've not had to take out a second mortgage on my house!  So there are definitely two sides to the story.  This guest post discusses the pros and cons of private vs state school.

"When it comes to education, every parent wants the best for their child. But is private school always necessarily better? With social happiness weighing on your child's future as heavily as the potential for academic achievement, the fact is not every child is fortunate enough to get the opportunity to attend a private school. Before you decide if private education is right for your children, read on for some more information on the public school system.

Benefits of private school education

There is no doubt that private schools have a lot to recommend them. Boasting beautiful buildings, acres of green grounds and a wide range of extra-curricular activities, parents can quickly become dazzled when comparing private schools with their local state schools.

This said, the benefits of a private education run far deeper than aesthetic superficialities. Indeed, by offering smaller classes private school children get a great deal of personal support, become part of a tight knit community with many more opportunities to build up their confidence as well as take on more diverse subjects with state-of-the-art equipment. As private schools often attract more committed teachers, exam results are also often higher, providing students with access to better universities.

How early does private school begin?

Education for your little ones can begin as early as age two with pre-nursery and nursery programs offered on a half day basis, but most full-day
private prep school programs begin at age four. Whilst some parents choose to use the state system for their children's early education they may decide that if they’re going to invest in private education, it may make sense to start as early as possible to get their child adjusted to the school and its ethos.

 How much will it cost me?

Obviously there is an expense to pay with a private education. Although many institutions now offer mortgage-style payments for parents passionate about educating their child privately but who find themselves unable to pay the fees up front, the fact is putting a child through private education from prep school can cost around £150,000 in the long run. Annual fees for day pupils at independent schools range from £12,000 - £20,000 but with prep school fees on top, private education can quickly become a huge investment for any family."

Review Round-Up - featuring Comfort, Carex and method

There are some great new scents from Comfort, Carex and method, which are helping to make cleaning up so much more sensational for summer.  From laundry to handwashing, there are some great new fragrances available to add some pzazz to the kitchen or bathroom.

Comfort Creations

Created by perfumiers, Comfort has launched some luxurious fabric softeners with sophisticated, long lasting fragrances.  Honeysuckle and Sandalwood, Indian Rose and Musk and Snapdragon and Patchouli fragrances are set to add an extra touch of luxury to laundry.

We were sent a Comfort Creations Indian Rose and Musk fabric conditioner.  With top notes of citrus and apple with a woody background of sandalwood, patchouli, musk and vanilla.  The rose scent brings a touch of romance to the fragrance.  It's a very exotic blend which bursts with musky lusciousness.

The fragrance is sophisticated and long lasting making my washing smell really lovely, fresh and perfumed!

A 33 wash bottle retails for £3.30 from good supermarkets.

Find out more and join in the chat at


method Fresh Currant Handwash

I am a big fan of method products.  They are environmentally friendly, 100% vegan and paraben free.  They also come in some incredible fragrances and vibrant colours.  The new Fresh Currant  handwash is a deliciously fruity formula with notes of blackcurrant, apple and jasmine.  It's just so sniffable! With added vitamin E and aloe it is gentle and nourishing on the skin.  The cheery scent is perfect for the summer and the teardrop bottle looks fabulous in the bathroom or the kitchen. 

We love this new addition to the method range.  It is sold exclusively in Boots for £2.49

hand wash, method

Carex Bubble Gum Hand Wash & Strawberry Laces Hand Gel

Encouraging the kids to keep their hands clean is made so much easier with these new Carex products which come in some awesome sweet shop scents.  The new fun edition products will have hands smelling as sweet as candy, as well as keeping them nourished and protected as they kill 99.9% of bacteria.  

The Bubble Gum Hand Wash makes masses of bubble gum scented bubbles which Freddy loves.  It makes hand washing so much fun.  The Strawberry Laces Hand Gel is perfect for popping in your handbag to keep hands sweet smelling and protected from germs on the go. 

The hand wash is available at supermarkets RRP £1.80 and the hand gel is available at Superdrug for £1.45.

hand wash, hand gel

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Nutty Mushroom Crumble Recipe

Gold from Flora is the new blend of butter and Flora, with a rich, creamy taste.  It is a versatile product, perfect for spreading, topping vegetables and potatoes or as an ingredient in baking or cooking.  Flora challenged me to come up with a simple recipe for an everyday family meal using Gold plus up to ten other ingredients and a £10 budget.  So, I came up with a recipe for a Nutty Mushroom Crumble, a tasty vegetarian meal.

The Nutty Mushroom Crumble has a delicious saucy, mushroom base topped with a crumble made using nuts, seeds and oatmeal.  (I used all ten ingredients plus optional seasonings to taste.)  Here is a video showing how I made it.


I received a £10 voucher to cover the cost of the ingredients.

Schrodinger's Lottery Ticket

Today, driving home from the school run I remembered that I had a lottery ticket tucked into a pocket in my handbag.  We only buy them occasionally, like when there's a triple rollover or for a special occasion, so it was a few weeks old and it hadn't been checked.  In that instant I fantasised about my six numbers coming up and what I would do with the millions that I'd win. Daydreaming about winning the lottery is such a wonderful way to fill the time when your mind is empty of any actually important thoughts.  Because, if you have a lottery ticket, until you categorically know it is not, it could be a winner.  In these moments, you are both potentially a millionaire or  just another person with a losing ticket.  Just like Schrodinger's cat in a box who is both dead and alive until proven lottery ticket is simultaneously a winner and a loser until I Google the results.

In these fleeting moments, I think about all the good I could do: helping out family and friends; buying a house with a granny annex for my parents to live in; investing in some lovely little local companies that share my ethics; donating things to the childrens' schools; setting up my kids for life and holidaying in Bora Bora!

I always think I'd make a good millionaire.  I don't believe that I'd suddenly get a taste for designer clothes, flash cars, private jets or expensive jewellery.  I'd be just like me now...only richer!

So on arriving home, I unearthed my Schrodinger's Lottery Ticket from my bag, holding on to the theory that until I checked it, I was potentially going to be able to give my dearest and nearest the opportunity to sort out their lives for the better. It was such a great feeling knowing I could help fix up Auntie Debbie's cottage, pay off Joe's car, fund Ella's way through uni, help out my nephews and nieces and set up Megan in her own high flying business venture.  Just imagine all the good that could be done.  Not to mention the fun that could be had!

I Googled the lottery results and one by one checked the six numbers...9, 16, 27, 43, 45, 48...and guess what?  Not a single match.  The dream was over until next time.  Schrodinger's Lottery ticket which was now officially a losing ticket was reigned to the paper recycling pile and reality was once again restored.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Easy Jam-Making for Beginners

This year I have had a bumper crop of strawberries from the patch in our garden.  We have also enjoyed fruit picking at a local PYO farm, so soft fruit has played a big part in our summer eating!

When Persil challenged me to try my hand at jam making, I thought it would be a fun way of using some of the soft fruits we have been enjoying.  I've never made jam before, thinking it was too much of a fiddly and time consuming process, but I used a recipe to make a super easy jar of jam, which I then used to make a Bakewell Tart.  It certainly wasn't cheaper or easier than using shop bought jam, but it was lovely knowing that I had made it myself using just two ingredients:  raspberries and sugar!

jam, soft fruit

Recipe for Easy Raspberry Jam

(to make 1 jar of jam)

300g raspberries
300g granulated sugar


Put fruit and sugar in a pan over a low heat until sugar dissolves.
Turn up heat and boil until temperature reaches 106 degrees.
Remove from heat and cool.
Pour into jar and seal.

jam making

You can strain the jam through muslin or a fine sieve to make it seedless, but we just enjoyed it how it was.

Jam making can be a bit of a messy job, which gave me an ideal opportunity to test out Persil's new Dual Action laundry capsules.  Combining stain removing microgranules with boosted concentrated liquid, the next generation capsules can tackle a whole host of household stains including jam!

With a sizeable blob of raspberry jam on my apron, I popped on a white load of laundry.  I did not pre-treat the stain at all, leaving all the work down to the Dual Action Capsules.  I used a 40 degree cycle that lasted 1 hour and 30 minutes.

laundry, stain removal

I was genuinely impressed to see the stain completely gone!  I was also pleased to see that a tomato ketchup stain on a pair of Ella's shorts had washed away.  They are very effective, fuss free and easy to use.

They are available in tubs of 17 and 28 priced at £8.32 and £9.99 (and right now they come with a money back guarantee!)

or find them on Twitter @PersilUK #persildualaction

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Thank you teacher!

This academic year is coming to an end with some momentous changes for my three youngest children.  Ella has finished college and is awaiting her A'Level results.  University life beckons come September, bringing with it some big changes for us at home and for her as she begins her further education in Manchester.  It's an exciting time for us all and I think it will be a wonderful opportunity for my daughter to truly find herself and embark on the amazing life she deserves. We will of course miss her, but she'll only be an hour away so I predict lots of weekend visits!

Kizzy will be going up to the secondary school that her three older siblings attended.  She is more than ready for it and is excited about being in 'big school'.  Her SATs results were excellent and I'm sure she will do really well (if he doesn't get lost en route to lessons!)  Kizzy is so sociable and has lots of friends, so I hope she'll fit right in and enjoy all the opportunities that present themselves. She looks so lovely and so very grown up in her new school uniform with a blazer and house tie.

Kizzy in her new uniform

Little Freddy has completed his year in Reception and will be a Year 1 in September.  He is still not up to the 'expected' level in reading and writing, which may be down to the trouble he has with his eyes and his inability to distinguish individual letters within a group.  He has a hospital appointment in August to look at what is going on with his eyesight. In spite of his vision problems, Freddy is really sharp with a quick wit and a keen interest in everything he does, so if a particular issue with his learning is identified, he'll be ready for the challenge. I'm planning on doing some extra work with him over the summer holidays in hope of bridging the gap between what he can do and what he struggles with to build his confidence.  But, regardless of whatever level he is achieving, I have seen Freddy flourish in the school environment. He is so much more sociable, kind, friendly, outgoing and confident, and his manners are impeccable.  He volunteers to do things, loves sharing his knowledge and is an expert when it come to using technology. The reading and writing will come in time.

I have been fondly remembering my own school years.  There are some teachers who I will never forget and whose influence helped shape me as a child.  From my first teacher Mrs Gallie who was maternal, gentle and nurturing to the positively terrifying Mrs Phillips who taught us through our 12+ exams, each and every one of the people who taught me made a difference.  My Junior school maths teacher, Mr Webster was a formidable character with a tendency to throw chalk at pupils and who carried around a dummy to humiliate those children who insisted on sucking on their pen lids.  But I really liked him!  I was delighted to see a photo of him come up on Facebook the other day on the event of my old school's centenary celebrations.  Thirty five years on and he looks just the same as I remembered him...just a bit older.  It made me smile.

schooldays, seventies
Me at Junior School in the 70s

I have such vivid memories of my school years.  I can still recite poems I learned, remember stories I wrote and recall actual lessons and what we did in class.  I hope my own children are making their own lifelong memories of their schooldays now, which will be stored away and looked back on with fondness in years to come.  

Teachers play such a big part when it comes to remembering this part of your life.  I still think back on Mr Goodchild the chemistry teacher who made us all hold hands and run around the science lab pretending to be molecules.  And my history teacher Mr Long's impression of  the hunchbacked King Richard III will never be forgotten.  A good teacher never leaves your thoughts. 

So as this term ends, I will encourage my kids to say 'Thank You' to their teachers. Many of their teachers will not be forgotten over the years.  Freddy's teacher is absolutely wonderful and I am so glad he has her for another year.  He needs a nurturing environment where he is valued for who he is.  Kizzy did not get along very well with her year 6 teacher some of the time, but that experience is a lesson in itself.  Knowing that not everyone is going love you in life and learning to deal with it and come up with strategies to get along is a very important skill.  

When it comes to gifts, you really can't go wrong with wine, flowers or chocolates to say thank you.  A lovely treat to start the summer holidays!  The Cadbury Thank You boxes are a great idea and at just £1.99 for a 48g box or £3.99 for a 180g box, they are a great value gift with a lovely sentiment.

confectionery, thank you gifts
Thank You gift from Cadbury

So, thank you to all the teachers out there, past and have made a difference!


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